Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Know Nebraska: Brown Sheep Company

Sometimes you might think all is doom and gloom for rural communities in general, and niche agriculture and manufacturing in particular. The Brown Sheep Company is a shining example of what can be done by using a little ingenuity and perseverance.
More than 100 years ago, E.W. Brown purchased a half-section of land near the Nebraska panhandle community of Mitchell. Upon his death, his land, and a small flock of sheep passed on to his grandson, Harlan Brown. There were many good years of wool production, but that all changed with the near-demise of American wool production and sales of lambs in the mid 1970's. The local wool mill closed, and the Browns were left without a market for their products.

Purchasing used wool production equipment from a declining textile industry in the American southeast, Harlan Brown put it together using that most vital of rural farmer/rancher attributes - ingenuity! In 1980 he began selling yarn that had begun as wool grown on his own land from his own flock.

In the late 1990's, the current owners, daughter Peggy Jo and husband Robert Wells returned to help out with the booming business. This has led to one of the most important sustainable elements of the thriving company. Robert Wells took his technical background and developed an innovative system to reuse 70% to 90% of the daily waste water.

Now the Wells' son is part of the 5th generation on the land of this western Nebraska ranch. Of course, this isn't just a story about the prosperity of the Wells family. Their thriving rural business buys wool directly from growers, and with more than 1,000 colors, that's a lot of wool!

The Story of Brown Sheep Company from Becky McMillen on Vimeo.

So the next time you're looking for wool for that great craft project you have in mind, why not make sure to use all-natural, American grown and processed wool from right here in rural Nebraska?

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